Australian Institute of Criminology

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The value of the DoVE

The DoVE provides an opportunity for researchers to more closely examine areas of victimisation that have been neglected. It has been created with two broad aims. To allow researchers to examine:

  • the direct and indirect experiences of victims of specific violent crimes; and
  • the social, psychological and developmental factors that may impact on the severity of the consequences experienced post-victimisation.

This approach to the study of victimisation differs from those discussed above in a number of ways. First, the DoVE allows researchers to explore victimisation without direct contact with victims. The original purpose of ARW reports was to allow the NSW Victim Compensation Tribunal to determine the level of psychological and associated harm experienced by the victim that could be attributed to their experience of crime. These reports contain a wealth of information including demography, developmental, medical, educational, employment and relationship history, experiences with drugs and alcohol, as well as descriptions of prior victimisation, significant life events or stressors. This scope and detail of information is not often accessible through traditional methods such as victimisation surveys or studies because of ethical concerns, such as the risk of re-traumatisation.

The DoVE also has the potential to allow researchers to describe a broader range of victimisation experiences. The inclusion of four crime types as well as primary and secondary victims means that the information contained within the database provides the opportunity to identify and compare victimisation experiences across types of crime. While victimisation surveys and police statistics collect information on a wide variety of offences, once again, it is the level of detail present in the DoVE data that sets it apart from these two methods.

Using this type of data does have its limitations, particularly the lack of ability to generalise to the broader victim population. The information is drawn only from individuals who have sought compensation from Victim Services NSW. This is critical because there may be key differences in the types of individuals who seek compensation (or help from government services more broadly) and those who do not. As a result, the patterns and characteristics identified through research using this sample may not apply to all victims of violent crime. Though attempts have been made to make the sample as applicable as possible through random stratification, it is still only representative of individuals who have sought help and engaged with Victim Services NSW.

The nature of the ARW reports has implications for the type of information they contain. Variability in the type and level of detail recorded in the reports is an issue. While Victim Services NSW supplies report writers with guidelines on how to structure their reports and what information to include, it was not always collected consistently or to the standard required. This is because ARW report writers relied predominantly on semi-structured interviews that allowed victims to provide in-depth information about aspects of their experience and history that they felt were important. Therefore some aspects of the victimisation may be explored in more detail compared with others. This lack of consistency also means that victims may have omitted information about their experience that they did not think was relevant or did not verbalise at the time. This may result in differential detail between victims’ accounts, thus impacting on understanding the actual experience of victimisation described and, consequently, the researcher’s ability to identify strong and cohesive patterns throughout the sample.

A database that records the experiences of victims in a structured way will help researchers to understand the victim’s role in crime as well as highlight their specific needs in terms of treatment and support. This type of information will be particularly useful to policymakers in both the criminal justice domains as well as those government and non-government organisations that seek to help victims recover and cope with the impact of violent victimisation. Although the DoVE currently contains information from one state, the aim is to incorporate similar data from other jurisdictions, as the methodology is refined. Ultimately, the aim of the DoVE is to produce policy-relevant research around the nature and impact of victimisation and the subsequent needs of victims. In doing so it can make meaningful contributions and improvements for individuals who experience violent victimisation in Australia.